Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Dilli-Mumbai (Love) Story by Abhimanyu Jha

A Dilli-Mumbai <3 Story can melt your heart.

I will frankly tell you that I'm not often a sucker for love stories, and recently I've read so many that it is really difficult to make me a like a love story simply because I've read too many. However, A Dilli-Mumbai (Love) Story did not only make me go, "Aww" at places, but also made me almost cry near the end. Note that I say near, and not at the end, where many talented authors can get a tear or two out of me simply by killing a character I was especially fond of. I will not tell you whether or not Abhimanyu Jha does this, but I will tell you that I was very pleased with how he went with the conclusion and I was extremely glad he did not chicken out and rob this story of the end that it rightfully deserved. I think that he handled a pretty turbulent subject - a love story that happens in the time of terrorism (or more specifically, the terror attacks on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai) - with the subtlety that the subject demanded.

I liked the writing a lot. It was not only impeccable as far as spelling and grammar were concerned, but was also extremely well-paced. I loved how the author skips between the scenes of many different years in one chapter and makes you realize the significance of each line that Apu (the female lead) says - and when the author repeats some of these at the end of the book, well, thats the time when I felt like crying. The author handles the non-linear storyline with remarkable ease and makes it very easy for the reader as well by providing dates at every scene break (though I admit to having skipped those most of the time - after two scenes I knew which one belonged to which time period). I don't think many readers will have trouble understanding this book, which is written simply but elegantly. There is abundant use of colloquial language, hindi, and chat speak - all at appropriate locations. The only place where I could complain was when there was a <3 used in the place of the word 'love' even in dialogue, which I found terribly annoying. Yes, I get how its cute and matches with the title of the book and all that, but I find such things jarring in the actual narrative. I can understand chatspeak and smileys when you're showing the texts of the characters (in fact, I LOVED that touch) but not in the middle of the story for no apparent reason.

The characters were another thing I really liked about the book. At first, I will admit, with names like Aniruddha (shortened to Ani) and Aparajita (shortened to Apu) I was a little confused as to which one was male and which one was female. But they turned out to be extremely well-written characters (especially Ani, who narrates the book) filled with flaws and loves and dreams and lives that were bigger than the story itself. Yes, they got filmi sometimes, especially with the whole love at first sight and "I love you so much I'll put aside my dreams for you" stuff but thankfully they didn't overdo it. The other characters were also fun and believable - I loved Ani's sister Aaru and his best friend Rohan and Gill Uncle - who was a great character and also Ani's friend, companion, guide and only source of comfort. In fact, had the others not been such great characters, I might have been more upset at the end of the book. The way things are, I'm convinced that everyone will get out of the tragedy that is terrorism and move on with their lives somehow.

Final thoughts: Well-written, touching without being extremely cheesy and with great characters - A Dilli-Mumbai <3 (Love) Story is worth a read.

Other thoughts: Look out for author Abhimanyu Jha's interview on my blog soon! Until then, stay tuned because I've got many great books to review in the next two weeks.

(Financial disclosure: Book source was the author.) 


Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview: Douglas Misquita

Do you like thrillers? Then you might like Haunted by Douglas Misquita, which I reviewed recently. Want to know more? Check out my review with the author himself! 

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?

Hi Sakhi. My bookshelf is full of techno-thrillers, adventure-thrillers, conspiracy-thrillers...THRILLERS, a few biographies, Tintin and Asterix comics, encyclopaedia (now redundant because of the Internet), Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tales,  abridged classics, Noddy! (I haven't given them away!) The 3 Investigators, Masters of the Universe mini comics, Nat Geo and now a Kindle!

Right now I'm reading I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter

Which genre do I read? See above (smiles)

I pick up any of my books and read the exciting parts again and again. I've read the Tintin comics almost to the near 3-digit numbers and Jurassic Park 9 times. And I'm not telling you how many times I've watched the movie!

2. Tell us something about your work before "Haunted"?

Before Haunted, there were short fiction that I wrote on single-ruled books and a lot of discarded and frustrated writings that stonewalled and some songs I composed.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "Haunted"?

I'm sure people might know this by-heart now. I wanted to be a writer from 1993. I got into writing when I tried to emulate the late Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park in my own El Dorado-themed adventure. Fast-action-movies with in-your-face visual effects combined with my interest (and almost everyone's) in a troubled/ traumatized psyche inspired me to write "Haunted"

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?

Anyone who loves movies, high-octane action, and want to escape their routine.  There's no age-limit: I guess you could read it to a newborn baby with all the sound effects and visuals and hold it enthralled (smiles); read it to your grandparents and they'd be itching for those stunts!
5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?

Books and the stories and information they hold transport me to places. How have books made an impact on my life? Given me an active imagination, produced "Haunted", taught me a lot about the world we live in and where we are headed, given me a lot of imitable idols.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:

Thrillers – Excitement ahoy!

Life – Acceptance and courage

-  Kirk Ingram (the character) – Troubled

Haunted (the book) – Raw adrenaline

Books – Comfort


And after that awesome interview, I have some good news. If you ever wondered about me, you can now check out an interview of me on Jidhu's blog.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Haunted by Douglas Misquita

Haunted by Douglas Misquita can keep you up at nights.


It is a really complex thriller about a terrorism outfit that will ultimately intersect with the lives of not just people like Kirk Ingram (the person I would call the protagonist) an FBI agent, but also many other people like a naval explorer looking for sunken ships, a group of scientists researching a nerve gas called Citex, a young lawyer, an ex-FBI agent now working for another side - and many, many more. I mentioned that the plot is complex, and the characters are also many and the different plot lines (till they converge) may confuse many readers. On the other hand, if you're the type of person who loves a good complex but extremely coherent and eventually very neatly tied up plot, then you're in for a treat. Haunted seems to be (and I admit I am uninitiated as far as crime thrillers of this type are concerned) a well-researched and well thought-out book, with enough twists and turns to keep you occupied, enough drama to keep you engaged, and enough different characters to make you want to keep a list. 

The characters are all introduced to you at various different, emotional or conflict-filled situations in their life, which I think really adds to the book because I found an immediate connect with most of the (I hesitate to use this word, but) good characters. The antagonists were a little harder to keep track off, especially because the story weaves in and out of many different plot lines and you might forget one when you're on another - especially if, like me, you read the book in whatever minutes you can snatch in a bus ride or in school breaks. I recommend you read this book at a stretch and not get disheartened if all the parts of the story do not make sense immediately - I know I had to re-read certain parts of the book before I understood what had happened, and I plan to re-read a few more parts immediately after I finish this review. Its definitely not the kind of book you can flip through without reading - you do have to pay attention to understand the story - but the story is quite interesting and does manage to hold your attention without much trouble. 

One of the problems that I faced with the story was its pacing. Somehow I felt that the beginning, that should have gripped me immediately (and I talk about chapter 1, not the prologue, which definitely chilled me) was slow and through me off balance. There was a lot of description of the weather and the nameless 'person' that I did not want and did not find relevant. I would recommend skimming through parts you can't get through and coming back at the end of the chapter - they are certainly interesting and even relevant later on. However, there were also a lot of positives about the author's writing - no spelling or grammatical errors, and great and interesting chapter headings. I particularly loved "The Haunting" chapters, and I would have loved some more of those, though I do understand why there weren't too many. 

Final thoughts: Interesting, complicated, well-written. Definitely a great read for people who like dark thrillers. 

Other thoughts: Author Douglas Misquita has gracefully agreed to appear on my blog for an interview! Keep checking back!

(Financial disclosure: Book source was the author.) 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview: Nikesh Rathi

So, do you remember Somewhere @ Nowhere, which I reviewed on my blog recently? Today I have author Nikesh Rathi on my blog! Welcome, Nikesh. 

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?
I have quite random reading habits. I read random articles from newspapers, magazines and websites to books – fiction as well as nonfiction.

I have quite a disorganized bookshelf! Currently I am reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Before that I read Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis and some short stories by Ruskin Bond and Roald Dahl. Next, I am planning to read A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson.   Some of my all time favourites are 1984, Animal Farm, The Godfather, The Alchemist, Catcher in the Rye, To kill a mockingbird etc. and I have read most of these multiple times.

2. Tell us something about your work before "Somewhere @ Nowhere"?
 I belong to Raipur, have done most of my schooling at Baroda, my engineering at NIT, Bhopal (2005) and MBA at IIM, Lucknow (2008) and worked in IT, FMCG and education sectors.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "Somewhere @ Nowhere"?
Writing is more of a hobby. Full time writing is like wishful thinking!
I used to blog somewhat regularly and used to write short stories, poems and articles, some of which have also featured in sites like IBNLive and Rediff. I started writing a book quite a few times, but never got going. Finally I overcame the inertia and Somewhere @ Nowhere happened.  I always had keen interest in travelling and knowing about places and people. I guess, these factors, apart from trying to come up with something different were instrumental in shaping the book.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?
I think this is for people who want to read something more than just chick lit or pulp fiction. I have tried my best not to make it one of those run of the mill kind of books. I think age is not a factor in determining if you’ll like it. I have actually received some nice compliments from not so young people!

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?
Reading lets you to explore new things and broaden one’s thinking and outlook. Every time I read, I become amazed by how little I know and there is so much to learn and explore.
I can’t pinpoint a particular book that made an impact on my life. But some books that have impacted my thinking in varying magnitudes are Animal Farm, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Alchemist, Catcher in the Rye, etc. (most of which happen to be among my favourites!)

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:
India – A superset made of different Indias.
Life – Random
Somewhere @ Nowhere – Hopefully, a masterpiece.
Unplanned Journeys – Wish to undertake some day.
Books – Exploring new horizons

Monday, June 20, 2011

Somewhere @ Nowhere by Nikesh Rathi

Somewhere @ Nowhere has one of the most interesting themes I've read recently.


Imagine the point in your life when you felt truly aimless, as if you were working for someone else. Leading someone else's life. Imagine an upheaval that left you unsure of what to do with yourself. Imagine taking some money and some friend and going into the general compartment of a train headed to nowhere - you discard your cellphone on the way and dont have internet access, you learn to eat in unhygienic places and live without things that you considered necessities, you head off somewhere to a place you dont know, no plans, no ambition - nothing except for you and the road and your next stop and your next meal. No company except for the strangers you can talk to on the road. No more following the rules set by society. Doesnt this sound exciting? Well, thats exactly the plot of Somewhere @ Nowhere by Nikesh Rathi. In his book, Rathi sends off his narrator into uncharted waters in India and leaves him to flounder around, discovering India, and in the process, discovering himself. 

But the narrator seems rather irrelevant in this story. In fact, I only learned his name on page 108 of a book that is roughly 150 pages. His friend is even more irrelevant, he does not even stay for the entirety of the book and I find him extraneous at best. But the crux of this story is about the people the narrator actually meets - the poor, downtrodden people that he has never had any contact with, and their lives and faith that shake his own life. The characters he meets are highly important as a reflection of Indian society and culture - and the one who touched by heart most was the nameless Sadhu at the start, and Malti, the young poor girl with an abused life who comes in at the end, but each one of them had their own sad stories and their own struggles with their lives, and each were placeholders for the much bigger drama that is India. At a few places, like when the narrator gets kidnapped (I will leave you to read the book to find out by whom) I felt that the characters were underdeveloped and under-explained, but all in all I enjoyed the character's stories as they were all different and all very relevant. 

The author avoids some of the cliches of writing (which I appreciated very much) - at one point I was extremely certain that there was going to be an ill-timed and ill-developed love story which I'm very glad he did not do, and at another point I believed that the author was heading towards a very radical change in the character that would not have been in keeping with the general development of the story. I liked the writing on the whole, mostly terse and I liked how the characters narrated their stories in their own voices. On the other hand certain parts of the writing were annoying - like the sometimes clunky writing and the fact that there was too much telling instead of showing, which often bogs down an otherwise good story. It is all very good to tell stories, but stories too need to be made more interesting by dialog and action sequences, which I feel the author could have done better. 

Final thoughts: Refreshing plot. The author, to quote Robert Frost, takes a "road not taken" and that makes all the difference. 

Other thoughts: Except an interview with Nikesh Rathi soon on my blog! Also, I'm currently reading Haunted by Douglas Misquita and have a whole range of books lined up, so keep an eye out and expect loads of replies very soon! 

(Financial disclosure: Book source was the author.) 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Interview: Vivek Banerjee

Hi everyone! Please welcome Dr. Vivek Banerjee, author of "The Long Road" for an interview on my blog today. If you recall, I interviewed his book a few days ago.

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of booksare there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?
I am a huge fan of fiction. From classics to adventure to mystery to horror to contemporary Indian English writing, I read them all. I also have Bangla and Hindi books in my bookshelf, though not as many as English ones. The books I have read multiple times are Doctors by Eric Segal, To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee, and almost all books by Jack Higgins, Alister Maclean and Wilbur Smith. I have also read Dan Brown multiple times. For the last two months, I have been busy with the
Book Reading Challenge conducted by your blog and Book Readers Lounge. So it has been Indian authors for the last two months.

2. Tell us something about your work before "The Long Road"?I used to blog on Rediff  iLand in its heydays. You can say that I developed confidence in my writing abilities thanks to Rediff  blogs. Many of my early short stories are still posted there.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "The Long Road"?

I guess I always wanted to be a doctor. Writing was just a whim I developed suddenly. (maybe a part of my bucket list) I was talking on the phone with my old school-teacher Ms. C. Sinha and said that I wanted to write a novel. She kind of encouraged me and I started thinking about it seriously. I started writing blogs, limericks and short stories to test the water. Even The long road started as a serial story on Rediff.( It was titled Doctors, by the way) The response of my co- bloggers to the story was fantastic. I ended the story after the Mumbai attacks when Sarika and Rahul get reunited. This elicited a howl of protest from my readers who wanted me to carry on with the story. I did and thus the book took shape.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?It should appeal to the urban Indian reader, the young and the young at heart. I sincerely hope that it does not remain confined to doctors and medical students.

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How havebooks made an impact on your life?
Books are wonderful. The best thing about them is that they are always there for you. I have been reading them ever since I learned to read. I believe books have shaped my personality and made me what I am today.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:
LoveThe best feeling ever…
Life Do your best…
MarriageMy biggest strength…
Medicine (as a profession)Very taxing but satisfying…
Booksare everything…

Nothing is impossible. One must dream and do his/ her best in life. I guess the following quote says it all.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that
you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
-- Mark Twain

(Sakhi: That is my favorite quote too! As anyone who's ever emailed me would know.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Long Road by Dr. Vivek Banerjee

The Long Road is a love story set in a medical college. 


The first thing that struck me about the book is how much it reminds me of Doctors by Eric Segal, which I absolutely adored. One scene in the book, the part about how Sarika in general surgery needs to change in the nurses room because there are no females taking up general surgery that they dont have a seperate changing room for them is eerily similar, though I found it terribly sad that that is still relevant (after all, Doctors was published in 1988 and based in 1962). However, I will admit that I really like stories of young people in medicine (somehow more than IIT or IIM based love stories, perhaps because they've become intensely repetitive at this stage and I enjoy different perspectives). And the best part about this one is that they dont ignore realism - a lot of the characters struggle between ambition and their personal lives, and between love and work, which I actually really enjoyed reading. Their interpersonal friendship, though at places under-deveoped, was also more appealing than the love stories, for me. 

The cast consists of five different people - sweet, innocent, overprotected Hina, rich-rebel Ranjiv, very ambitious and driven Sarika, Rahul, who struggles to find his place in the world, and Sagarika, who is not as well developed as the rest, and gets less story time, but who's story is one of the most satisfying. A lot of the book is based on the interlinking love stories of all the characters - but while I thought the love stories were slightly predictable I enjoyed reading about the other conflicts - how Sarika works to make her marriage work side-by-side with her ambition, how Hina struggles against her parents and eventually develops into someone quite different from who she was in the beginning, how Sagarika (why do the characters have such similar names?) learns to adjust to the newest changes in her life. Some conflicts were resolved a little too easily, and too many because of calamities, but I guess calamities have their power to, I quote Bernard Shaw here, " break down all likes and dislikes, and throw them both back on their common humanity" and therefore that part of the story makes sense as well. 

Some things that I didnt like as much - at places the writing seemed very forced and there is too much telling as opposed to showing. On the other hand, the book is short and fast-paced and zips past very fast. I really liked the chapter heading and certain special chapters - like the chapters where Sagarika writes back to Rahul in an email, and the beginning of the book, are truly gems. The first chapter, for example, is set in an extremely turbulent time and will grip you and make you want to read more about the characters when you dont even know them. The book is about love, life and friendship in a difficult time and a difficult course, and as such it does well in portraying the conflicts that assail these people in young India. 

Final thoughts: A tale chronicling the (mostly romantic) struggles of five medical students in India. Fast paced and different - definitely worth a read. 

Other thoughts: Did I also mention I finished Eric Segal's "The Class" recently? I have to post a reply of that. Also of Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" and the first book of the Percy Jackson series, as well as many books currently in my bookshelf. Keep a look out!
Also, I'll be interviewing author Vivek Banerjee soon here!

(Financial disclosure: Book source is the author.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

What can I say? Palace of Illusions is so beautiful, I am lost for words.

The Palace of Illusions: A Novel

Its not like I wasnt expecting it to be amazing. I was. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of those authors I pick up when I see on a bookshelf, no questions asked. Her books are magical and mystical, written in a lyrical style quite different from most authors. Her writing is mature and beautiful - she crafts worlds that I and my mother, women of two different generations, can enjoy and love. What I admire most is how well she takes certain concepts, and manipulates them into something beautiful. She takes fantasy and she brings it into India. And in Palace of Illusions, she does something even more difficult - she takes one of the oldest tales in the world (the Mahabharata) and she re-tells it so beautifully that she can make the heart break with pure awe. Because she does something that I've always wanted to see done - she portrays the Mahabharata from a woman's point of view - and not just any woman, the most pivotal woman of all - Draupadi, Panchaali, the woman with five husbands, the cursed and the destined. 

 First things first - the characterization is spot-on. Read this book, and you will fall in love with Draupadi, no matter what problems you had with her before. I for one never thought of her as a villain, but I recommend this book to anyone who doesnt share my view - and everyone who does. But its not just Draupadi who shines as a character. Divakaruni manages to make almost all the characters real for me - from Bheem and Karna (both of whom I hadnt thought much of before reading this book, and fell in love with both of them by the end), Yudhishtir (he saved himself in my eyes by the final thing he does in the book) to Arjun (who I didnt like as much, but who was still an amazing character) - to Nakul, Sahadev, and Kunti - and for that matter even Duryodhan, Drona and Bheeshma (all of whom were on the other side of the epic) battle. But the character I loved the most was Krishna. Krishna has been my favorite since years, but this book, and his relationship with Draupadi, took my love to a new high. None of the characters are unblemished and purely heroic (in a book about gods!) but in that they become truly lovable. All the interpersonal relationships are also wonderfully etched - you can learn from the way Divakaruni shows Draupadi's relationships with each of her five husbands, her brother, her mother-in-law, her forbidden lover, the other wives of her husbands and her sons. 

The book also added a lot to my understanding of the Mahabharata. I've grown up hearing the Mahabharata from my grandfather, but I'd thought before that it was a rigid, impractical sort of war - a righteous war that did not fit with my world view. The book made the war much more alive and real to me. Divakaruni does not mince words and she doesnt save characters - all your favorites can be dishonored when the very real game of war begins. I think you might enjoy the book slightly more if you're already fairly familiar with the Mahabharat - there are some tricky points that you might miss otherwise, and a lot of major battles and victories that Divakaruni skims over, because they are simply not things that Draupadi would pay attention to or know. Also many in-references can be found inside the book, like a mention of how "Krishna was out looking for a gem," that you wont understand because she wont explain them. While this should not detract from the experience of someone who hasn't read the Mahabharata, it will certainly be more enjoyable for those more familiar with it. 

I don't know if you would enjoy the style. Divakaruni has a very, very unique voice (I catch myself thinking, writing and speaking in the same lyrical way for days after reading one of her novels). Its written in first-person view, but it often has moments like, "But I knew later that this was not true." I generally avoid such books, but this is one of my favorite authors, after all and I believe she makes it work (it helps that you might know most of the story already - you are more re-discovering than discovering all this for the first time). She writers poetic prose but it still seems to fly - I finished the book in two days and I felt like I couldn't stop until it was over. I honestly believe that its a work of art more than it is a book - everything, from the font of the chapter heads to the cover to the writing is meant to immerse you more deeply into the world of these characters.

Final thoughts: It has been way, way too long since I cried after reading a book. And I teared up multiple times during this book. That should really speak for itself. But if it doesnt - its the stunning re-telling of an age old epic, great characterization, drastic change in the point of view and beautiful writing. Read it. 

Other thoughts: When I re-read this review, I kept thinking stuff like, "oh, I forgot to add how much I loved Dhri! Or Dhai Ma! Or how awful the lac house thing was!" - which is just further proof that you should read this book.

Also, I shifted list day to next week. Exams! -sigh-

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Interview: Sonia Kundra Singh

Hi! Today on my blog is Sonia Kundra Singh, author of "Love Me In The End" which I reviewed here a few days ago.

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?
 My bookshelf is filled with romances, starting from Mills and Boons to Judigth McNaught. There was a phase in my life where I spent all my allowance collecting each and every book of my favourite authors. But I have moved on a little to thrillers and memoirs now and have added them when I need a distraction. However, even now if I see a romance I can’t resist the temptation. I do read the books by Diana Palmer again and again.
I am reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown at the moment and just moved enough to answer your questions.

2. Tell us something about your work before "Love Me In The End"?
I write blogs and love penning down short stories and little titbits about my life. You can find me here

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "Love Me In The End"?
I never thought of a side-line career and thanks to the support of my parents I could pursue it full time. Writing romances had always been highpoint of my career and I am loving it. I remember my mom giving me an age-old typewriter after I began scribbling like mad at the back my notebooks. I began spending all my free time on writing then.

Love Me In The End happened after a series of mishap novels (that is only for my private pleasure). I began spending a lot of time on my characters and surprisingly felt more than I could think. Inspiration would be a lonely night and lots of coffee.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?
Love Me In The End, being a romance can be read by almost anyone and I am not really targeting an audience here.  If you love a good romance with all the right spices- This book is for you!

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?
It signifies so much more than just words for me. A world of its own it makes me just want to forget all my woes and become this person who is nothing but an onlooker.
It is very difficult to decide how many books have made an impact on my life but I can name a few. Mitch Albom’s ‘Seven people you meet in heaven’, Robin Sharma’s ‘Who will cry when you die?’ and then there are many romances that have made an impact on my writing Shashi Deshpande’s works, Diana Palmer’s ‘Long Tall Texan’ and Judith McNaught’s historical romances.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:
Love – An illusion of a fantasy you want to live with forever

Life – Happens. Deal with it.

-  Arranged Marriage
 – A preview of an upcoming romance

- Arman 
 (the character) – Love him, Hate him but such a man exists

Books – My own personal world of paradise.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Interview: Anurag Anand

Hi! Today I have on my blog none other than Anurag Anand, whose book I raved about a few days ago. Welcome, Anurag. 

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kinds of books are there on your bookshelf. What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?
On my bookshelf you would find everything from comic books, light reads to serious fiction. My frame of mind dictates the kind of books I read. Nothing works like a P G Wodehouse or a Tintin/ Archie Comic book to rejuvenate me after a grueling day at work, while the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milan Kundera, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie etc make up my more serious reads. I am not much into non-fiction, but a few biographies/ autobiographies (Lance Armstrong, Richard Branson etc) have managed to enthrall me as well. When I read a book, I get absorbed in the story and hence it doesn’t carry the same novelty after I have read it once. However, I can read a comic book again and again and enjoy it all the same.  

2. Tell us something about your work before "The Quest for Nothing"?
My first book, 'Pillars of Success' was published when I was 25 (2004). The book was an assimilation of my experiences with the Youth Development Program of a Delhi based NGO, UNES and talked about the simple things in life that can be the differentiators between success and failure. I followed it up with another book in the self-help genre titled, 'Corporate Mantras'. As the name suggests, the book dwelled upon the vagaries of the corporate world and provided its readers with simple tips for survival.
Thereafter, the storyteller within me took charge and I penned my first work of fiction, 'Tic Toc – A tale of love, hate & terror". The book was launched by the acclaimed filmmaker Mr Mahesh Bhatt and was widely appreciated for its differential treatment of a sensitive subject like terrorism. 'The Quest for Nothing' is my second fiction title and fourth published book.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "The Quest for Nothing"?
I wouldn’t say I always knew that I would be writing. In fact, when I first started to pen down the manuscript of Pillars of Success, I had no idea that it would eventually culminate into a book. Once the manuscript was ready, I sent it to just the one publisher who luckily agreed to publish it. From there on, it was the high of creating something that could touch a chord with people I did not personally know that propelled me further into writing.
The Quest for Nothing was deeply inspired by what I saw all around me on an everyday basis. Individuals who unabashedly go about chasing an idea called success which does not have a concrete shape or a defined form even in their own minds; the spoils eventually permeating into their personal lives and relationships. Though there are books that have been written with similar settings, they have mostly focused on sensationalism behind the office doors. I wanted to write something that was more relatable and would force people to pause and think about the things that they tend to take for granted in their quest for a successful career.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?
The USP of The Quest for Nothing is its realistic setting, story line and characters. The relationships have been treated in an utterly real-world fashion and I hope that a lot of people will find a slice or two from their own lives in the book. As was aptly summarized by a review in the Hindustan Times, 'And as you stream through the pages, you are bound to sit up more than once and exclaim, 'Hey, that’s exactly how it happens with me!'' Thus, I expect the story to resonate with every individual who is sensitive towards people and relationships.

5. What is your favorite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?
Reading and books are as integral to my life as possibly my mobile phone and so it is difficult for me to point out one single favorite thing about the experience of reading. It is simply difficult for me to imagine life without books.
In addition to the felt benefits like better understanding of language, knowledge and information gain, reading has a host of other benefits that often go unnoticed. Books play a crucial role in enriching the mind and enabling an individual to view a situation from various perspectives. Not a scientific fact, but I have often noticed that most vociferous of readers are generally the in-control, calm personalities that people enjoy being with.
My earliest brush with reading has been the comic books that I used to sneak between my text books in the numerous unsuccessful attempts at dodging my mother's keen eyes. The impact often left me with reddened ears or cheeks, when I was caught. But since then, I have gained a lot from the books I have read and I would attribute a large part of my current understanding of the human mind and behavior to my reading.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:
-Love: A badly abused word and an indescribable emotion.

Life: A gift, meant to be cherished.

Marriage:  A commitment that, when made to the right partner, can make life a heavenly experience.

Akash (the character): You, me and every other person running in the mad race for success.

Books: The most willing partner you can ever find.

Other thoughts: (Let the author inform you of his newest work, out for pre-order already!)
My next title, 'Reality Bites' is expected to hit the stands in June 2011 and if you liked 'The Quest for Nothing', you will simply love 'Reality Bites'.

It is a love thriller set in a co-ed high school hostel with numerous unexpected twists and turns. The protagonist sets out on a pursuit of love, guided not by the callings of his heart but by peer pressure to lose the tag of being single. Amid the clan-esque hierarchy and the curiously bizarre characters that are nurtured within the boundaries of the hostel, will he eventually succeed in finding his true love?

More thoughts: Attended author Shrenik Mutha's book launch for Broken Hearts in Pune yesterday! Quite a showing. Check out my review of his book here along with my interview of Shrenik!

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